Readers!

A big thank you to all those donated or subscribed during my summer fund-raising drive for Behind the Black. I cannot express deeply enough how much I appreciate your support!

 

Donations are still welcome, as indicated by the tip jar to the right (or on the bottom of the page on mobile devices). I will simple not beg for them as much, for a little while at least.

 

Scroll down for new updates.

Scientists admit to many errors in ocean warming paper

The uncertainty of science: The scientists who wrote a much heralded paper a few weeks ago claiming that the oceans are retaining far more heat than previously believed have admitted that their paper has many errors that make its conclusions far more uncertain.

Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are.

Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists’ work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”

The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time. [emphasis mine]

To put it more bluntly, their conclusions are worthless, the data being too uncertain.

When this paper came out two weeks ago I looked at it, and found myself questioning its results. They seemed too certain. Moreover, their work was too perfect for confirming the theory that the oceans are retaining more heat and thus causing the pause in global warming that no global warming model predicted. It fit the model of most climate research these days, unreliable and unconvincing, which is why I did not post it on Behind the Black.

Now, only two weeks later, we find the researchers backing off from their certain conclusions. If anything is a perfect demonstration of confirmation bias, this story is it. These global warming scientists want desperately to prove their theories, and since their models haven’t been working they are desperately searching everywhere they can for explanations. In this case that search led them astray.

The truth is that maybe the climate field should take a step back and reconsider its entire assumptions about carbon dioxide and global warming. They might actually end up doing better science, and thus do a better job at getting us closer to the truth.

A side note: That this paper passed peer review, and was strongly touted by the media and the science community, illustrates once again how much that media and science community has allowed its biases to cloud its vision. This paper should never have been published with these errors. Period.

Share

Scientists discover giant impact crater buried under Greenland ice

Scientists have discovered the existence of a giant impact crater buried under the Greenland ice.

An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, has discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway.

They think, based on the data, that this crater is very young, one of the youngest known on Earth. At the most is is no more than 3 million years old.

Share

Null result from Spitzer suggests Oumuamua was small

The uncertainty of science: The inability of the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope to detect the interstellar object Oumuamua as it exited the solar system suggests the object is small.

The fact that ‘Oumuamua was too faint for Spitzer to detect sets a limit on the object’s total surface area. However, since the non-detection can’t be used to infer shape, the size limits are presented as what ‘Oumuamua’s diameter would be if it were spherical. Using three separate models that make slightly different assumptions about the object’s composition, Spitzer’s non-detection limited ‘Oumuamua’s “spherical diameter” to 1,440 feet (440 meters), 460 feet (140 meters) or perhaps as little as 320 feet (100 meters). The wide range of results stems from the assumptions about ‘Oumuamua’s composition, which influences how visible (or faint) it would appear to Spitzer were it a particular size.

The new study also suggests that ‘Oumuamua may be up to 10 times more reflective than the comets that reside in our solar system – a surprising result, according to the paper’s authors.

These results fit the models that explain Oumuamua’s fluctuations in speed as caused by the out gassing of material, like a comet. They also do not contradict the recent hypothesis that the object might have been an alien-built light sail.

The simple fact is that we do not have enough data to confirm any of these theories.

Share

Volcanic rivers on Mars

Granicus Valles

Cool image time! The photo on the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was part of the November image release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). If you click on the image you can see the full resolution picture.

The uncaptioned release webpage is dubbed “Faults in Granicus Valles.” The image itself only shows a small part of Granicus Valles, named after a river in Turkey, that flows down from the estern slopes of the giant volcano Elysium Mons. While far smaller than the four big Martian volcanoes in the Tharsis region to the east and near Marines Valles (which I highlight often), Elysium Mons still outshines anything on Earth at a height of almost 30,000 feet and a width of 150 miles. It sits at about the same northern latitude of Olympus Mons, but all by itself, rising up at the very northern edge of the transition zone between the southern highlands and the northern plains, with the vast Utopia Basin, the second deepest basin on Mars, to the west.

Overview of Elysium Mons and Granicus Valles

Granicus Valles itself is almost five hundred miles long. At its beginning it flows in a single straight fault, but once it enters the northern plains of Utopia Basin it begins to meander and break up into multiple tributaries. The MRO image above shows only a tiny portion in the northern plains, as illustrated by the white box in the overview map to the left.
» Read more

Share

SuperEarth orbiting Barnard’s Star?

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have discovered a candidate exoplanet orbiting Barnard’s Star, the closest single star to our solar system and the second closest stellar system after Alpha Centauri.

The planet candidate, named Barnard’s star b (or GJ 699 b), is a super-Earth with a minimum of 3.2 Earth masses. It orbits its cool red parent star every 233 days near the snow-line, a distance where water would be frozen. In the absence of an atmosphere, its temperature is likely to be about -150 ºC, which makes it unlikely that the planet can sustain liquid water on its surface. However, its characteristics make it an excellent target for direct imaging using the next generation of instruments such as NASA’s Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST, [3]), and maybe with observations from the ESA mission Gaia [4].

The reason I put a question mark in the headline is that this is not the first time a candidate exoplanet has been proposed to orbit Barnard’s Star. In the 1960s astronomer Peter van de Kemp claimed the star had at least one gas giant orbiting it every 24 years. It was later found that the periodic motion variations he measured were due to “to an artifact of maintenance and upgrade work” at the telescope he was using.

The result above has not been confirmed by other means, so they must list this superEarth as a candidate exoplanet. More observations are necessary to confirm it.

Share

Neutron star merger caused gravitational wave?

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers now believe that one of the half dozen or so gravitational waves detected by LIGO was likely caused by the merger of two neutron stars.

One of these, GW170817, resulted from the merger of two stellar remnants known as neutron stars. These objects form after stars much more massive than the Sun explode as supernovae, leaving behind a core of material packed to extraordinary densities.

At the same time as the burst of gravitational waves from the merger, observatories detected emission in gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared and radio waves – an unprecedented observing campaign that confirmed the location and nature of the source.

The initial observations of GW170817 suggested that the two neutron stars merged into a black hole, an object with a gravitational field so powerful that not even light can travel quickly enough to escape its grasp.

While intriguing, this result is uncertain, and based on many assumptions.

Share

Powerful 1972 solar storm detonated ocean mines in Vietnam

Scientists studying a powerful 1972 storm have also uncovered a recently released Navy report that showed the storm was powerful enough that it detonated ocean mines off the coast of Vietnam.

On the same day [the storm arrived on Earth], while observing the coastal waters of North Vietnam from aircraft, US Navy personnel witnessed dozens of destructor sea mines exploding with no obvious cause. These mines were airdropped by the US Navy into Vietnamese waters as part of Operation Pocket Money, a mission aimed at blocking supplies from reaching North Vietnamese ports.

The Navy promptly investigated the peculiar explosions, working with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to conclude that more than 4,000 mine detonations were most likely triggered by the solar storm, Knipp said.

A now declassified report about the mining of North Vietnam from the Chief of Naval Operations at the Mine Warfare Project Office noted, “this was the first example of what happens to a major mining campaign in the face of the vagaries of nature.”

Many of the destructor mines were designed to trigger if they sensed changes in magnetic fields associated with moving ships. Solar activity is known to perturb Earth’s magnetic field, and in early August 1972, the perturbations were likely strong enough to meet the magnetic requirements for detonation, Knipp said.

This proves once again that one must not dismiss any possibility in trying to understand what happens in the universe. Don’t be credulous, but don’t be close-minded either. The universe can surprise you.

Share

Virgin Orbit completes fastest taxi test of LaunchOne

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit this past weekend completed the fastest taxi test of its LaunchOne smallsat rocket airplane, with LaunchOne attached.

In a tweet posted today, Virgin Orbit said the Nov. 11 ground test revved up the plane, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, to a speed beyond 110 knots (125 mph) on a runway in Victorville, Calif. That’s fast enough to simulate an aborted takeoff. “We also used the day as an opportunity to load real flight software onto LauncherOne for the first time,” the company said.

My 2016 prediction, that Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne will reach space before Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, looks increasingly likely. They had said they wanted to do their first launch by the end of the 2018 summer. Though this did not happen, their launch license [pdf] is effective through December 2019, and it appears they are moving towards that first launch within a few months.

Share

Vector applies for license for launch in Kodiak, Alaska

Capitalism in space: Vector has applied for an FAA license for a suborbital test launch in Kodiak, Alaska of its Vector-R smallsat rocket.

The launch is planned to occur no later than April 2019.

Their original suborbital test schedule was supposed to have occurred already, but those were mere verbal announcements. This is more concrete.

Vector does need to get off the ground however. Two years ago it was considered in a close race with Rocket Lab. Now Rocket Lab has pulled far ahead, and Vector might be losing ground to other smallsat launch companies.

Share

India’s GSLV-Mark 3 rocket successfully launches communications satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a new Indian communications satellite on the third launch of its larger GSLV-Mark 3 rocket.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.III, or GSLV Mk.III, is India’s newest and most powerful rocket. After making a suborbital demonstration launch in late 2014, the rocket made its first orbital mission last June when it deployed the GSAT-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday’s launch was designated D2, indicating that it was the rocket’s second developmental launch, however like last year’s flight its payload – GSAT-29 – is a fully operational satellite.

I have embedded a video of the launch below the fold. The launch occurs at about 25 minutes in.

With this success, the fifth launch this year by India, that country will be able to move forward on the January launch by the GSLV of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remains unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 28.
» Read more

Share

Another private lunar rover unveiled

Capitalism in space: The private start-up company Lunar Outpost today unveiled its tiny 10 kilogram (22 pound) rover, designed to map lunar resources.

The first Prospector was demonstrated driving and drilling in Lunar regolith simulant at the Colorado School of Mines’ new Lunar testbed facility in the Earth Mechanics Institute overseen by the Center for Space Resources. This event marks the first commercial Lunar Prospector publicly tested in the United States.

Evidence of valuable resources on the Lunar surface, such as water, precious metals, and helium-3 have been established by remote sensing on flyby missions around the Moon. This scientific data has been used to create general resource models of the Lunar surface, which now require ground-truthing to establish optimal landing sites and plan future resource extraction operations. Groups of Lunar Outpost Prospectors will map the surface and subsurface resources of the Moon, while autonomously navigating along waypoints and avoiding hazards such as large rocks and craters. These Prospectors can also be teleoperated if needed and can utilize NASA’s Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway concept as a center of operations.

This is a tiny inexpensive rover, essentially an upgraded drone. Very smart, and efficent. Below the fold is the company’s video of this demo test. The drilling capability is especially impressive.

Their website does not say how much they will charge for this rover, but they also note that it has 5 kilograms of cargo capacity, meaning that they can also offer this to customers.
» Read more

Share

LSST’s giant coating chamber arrives in Chile

The giant coating chamber that will be used to coat the mirrors for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope has arrived in Chile.

The Coating Chamber and its associated equipment will share this level with the camera maintenance rooms, the vertical platform lift, and the shipping and receiving area. The Coating Chamber will be used to coat LSST’s mirrors when they arrive on Cerro Pachón, and to re-coat the mirrors periodically during Operations.

LSST will conduct a 10-year survey, and during this period its mirrors will be exposed to the elements each night as the telescope surveys the sky through the open side of the observatory dome. Over time the mirrors will get dusty, and the mirror coatings may develop small blemishes that eventually affect the telescope’s performance. To ensure that LSST continues to collect the sharpest possible images of the night sky, its mirrors will undergo periodic washing and recoating. It’s anticipated that the Primary/Tertiary Mirror (M1M3) will need to be recoated every two years, and the Secondary Mirror (M2) every five years, during the 10-year survey. Both the washing and recoating will be done inside the observatory; special equipment will be used to remove and transport the mirrors from the telescope to the washing station and coating chamber.

LSST will essentially be imaging the entire visible sky nightly, making it possible over time to track sudden events, such as supernovae, as they happen.

Share

Evidence of nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto

Using data sent back by New Horizons during its fly-by of Pluto scientists now think they have identified land forms created by past nitrogen ice glaciers.

The washboard and fluted terrain … occur at the location on Sputnik Planitia’s perimeter where elevations and slopes leading into the surrounding uplands are lowest, and also where a major tectonic system coincides with the edge of Sputnik Planitia. The low elevation of the area makes it a natural setting for past coverage by nitrogen ice glaciers, as indicated by modeling of volatile behavior on Pluto performed by Dr. Bertrand at Ames.

Through comparison of the washboard and fluted texture with parallel chains of elongated sublimation pits (depressions in the surface formed where ice turns directly into a gas) seen in southern Sputnik Planitia, the ridges are interpreted to represent water ice debris liberated by tectonism of underlying crust. This water ice debris was buoyant in the denser, pitted glacial nitrogen ice that is interpreted to have formerly covered this area, and collected on the floors of the elongated pits. After the nitrogen ice receded via sublimation, the debris was left as the aligned ridges, mimicking the sublimation texture – washboard ridges where deposited on flat terrain, and fluted ridges where deposited on steeper slopes.

This is strange stuff. The solid bedrock here, water ice, will float on the nitrogen ice sitting on top of it. Thus, the material that wants to sublimate away, nitrogen, sometimes has to fight its way past the water ice that has risen to the top of the pile.

To put it mildly, we hardly understand these alien processes. This research is merely a first stab, the first hand-waving.

Share

Fox reporter threatened, chased from bar

They’re coming for you next: A Fox news reporter was threatened and then chased from a Brooklyn bar this week, merely because one patron discovered where she works.

Timpf was confronted by a woman, who, after hearing she worked at Fox News, became enraged and began shouting at her in a threatening manner.

“This girl started going nuts on me, screaming at me to get out of the bar. I found her very threatening,” Timpf said of the woman, whom she had never met before. She said she tried to move to another section of the large bar but the young woman followed her while continuing to scream.

The woman, who was visibly intoxicated at the time, was surrounded by a large group of men and women who all stood by and laughed as she harassed Timpf and followed her around the bar. After realizing no one in the group would defend her in what might become a violent situation, Timpf was forced to flee the bar.

“It was super uncomfortable and I didn’t want things to get physical,” she said. [emphasis mine]

It is the audience that counts. One person was bullying this reporter, and everyone else “stood by and laughed.”

Bad times are coming. You will not be defended should you be attacked physically because of your conservative political beliefs. Be prepared.

Share

Earth’s atmosphere cooling as solar minimum arrives

The uncertainty of science: With the early arrival of the solar minimum, the Earth’s atmosphere has quickly shown signs of cooling.

New research shows that Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding. “We see a cooling trend,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”

These results come from the SABER instrument onboard NASA’s TIMED satellite. SABER monitors infrared emissions from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air 100 to 300 kilometers above our planet’s surface. By measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the very top of the atmosphere–a layer researchers call “the thermosphere.”

“The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” explains Mlynczak, who is the associate principal investigator for SABER.

What effect this upper atmosphere cooling will have on the surface climate is somewhat uncertain, though there is a great deal of evidence suggesting the surface climate will cool also.

Share

Is Rocket Lab an American or New Zealand company?

Link here. According to Rocket Lab’s own president, his company is American, even though much of its history is based in New Zealand.

When I asked Peter Beck whether his company was Kiwi or American, he didn’t shirk from waving the Stars and Stripes. “Look, we’ve been an American company and proud of it for many years,” he said.

“The New Zealand element is very important and very special to us but we never tried to hide the fact we’re a US company and this is where New Zealand companies go wrong in the fact that if you want to be a large, successful global company, it’s very difficult to be that out of New Zealand.”

Share

ArianeGroup to cut 2300 jobs

Capitalism in space: Faced with a significant loss of market share, taken by SpaceX, the European rocket manufacturer ArianeGroup has announced it will reduce its staffing by 2,300 jobs by 2022.

A joint venture by European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran, it currently employs 9,000 people in France and Germany. Constructor of the Ariane rockets, the European Space Agency workhorse, ArianeGroup also produces ballistic missiles.

Ariane 5 rockets are soon to be replaced by the Ariane 6 which will be an estimated 40 percent cheaper to make, under pressure in particular from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

But European buyers have so far ordered only three Ariane 6 rockets ahead of the first scheduled launch in 2020.

The article at the link, produced by a French news service, is somewhat amusing. It repeatedly blames the lack of demand for the Ariane 6 on the U.S. government, which provides business to SpaceX. It doesn’t mention that ArianeGroup’s Ariane 6 rocket meanwhile is being built with government funds from the European Space Agency, and once completed in the 2020s will have a launch price that exceeds that of the Falcon 9 today. No wonder it hasn’t garnered many customers.

Share

More Pits on Mars!

Pits near Arsia Mons

Cool image time! In the November image release from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) were three images, dubbed by me in the collage above as number one, number two, and number three, showing pits south of Arsia Mons, the southernmost volcano in the chain of three giant volcanoes to the east of Mars’s largest volcano, Olympus Mons, and to the west of the Marineris Valles valley.

Mars overview showing pit locations

The image on the right provides the geographical context of the three pits. They are all south of the volcano on the vast lava flow plains that surround it. The location of pits #1 and #2 is especially intriguing, on the east and west edges of what appears to be a large lava flow that had burst out from the volcano, leaving a large lava field covering a vast area several hundred miles across just to the south. You can also see a similar large lava field to the north of the volcano. Both fields appear to have been formed when lava poured through the breaks created by the fault that cuts through the volcano from the northeast to the southwest.
» Read more

Share

Stan Lee dies at 95

R.I.P. Stan Lee, the central writers for Marvel Comics in the 1960s and co-creator of all its most popular creations, has passed away at 95.

Lee was credited as the writer for almost every single comic book Marvel published throughout most of the 1960s. Teamed with a variety of artists (Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the most important), these individuals helped shape much of the culture of that time, while influencing, for good or ill, almost all artistic culture to have since followed.

Share

The ExoMars 2020 landing site

ExoMars 2020 landing site

Last week the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the final chosen landing site for their 2020 ExoMars rover, a region called Oxia Planum.

Since then they have posted several detailed overview maps describing this region. The image on the right, reduced slightly to post here, shows the final two candidate elliptical landing sites in black, with Oxia Planum on the left. The caption for this image adds this tantalizing detail:

Both landing site candidates lie close to the transition between the cratered northern highlands and the southern lowlands of Mars. They lie just north of the equator, in a region with many channels cutting through from the southern highlands to the northern lowlands. As such, they preserve a rich record of geological history from the planet’s wetter past, billions of years ago.

To understand better what they mean by this, we need to zoom out.
» Read more

Share

Japan successfully sends small recoverable capsule back from ISS

Japan’s most recent cargo freighter to ISS, after undocking and beginning its de-orbit maneuvers, released a small recoverable capsule that was successfully recovered on Earth.

A capsule ejected from a space cargo vessel returned to Earth on Sunday, bringing back experiment samples from the International Space Station (ISS) in the first such mission for Japan.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the capsule, measuring 84 wide and 66 cm high, made a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific near the island of Minamitorishima early in the morning and was retrieved later in the day.

“I think we’ve succeeded almost as planned,” Hirohiko Uematsu, technology director of JAXA, told a press conference at the agency’s Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The last quote above suggests that the recovery was not entirely successful, but no details were provided. Regardless, this gives the users of ISS a second way to bring experiments back from the station, with SpaceX’s Dragon the first.

Share

Rocket Lab successfully completes its first operational Electron launch

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully completed its first operational launch, the third Electron rocket launch attempt (two of which succeeded) and the second successful launch this year.

You can see a replay of the launch here. The payload was six smallsats and a “drag sail” designed to test technology for deorbiting satellites more efficiently.

They plan to follow with another launch in a month.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remained unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 ULA
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead in the national rankings. Last year I initially counted Rocket Lab as an American company, but was convinced by others that it was better labeled as New Zealand, since the rocket was assembled and launched there, using a local team. I now have decided this is a mistake. The rocket is essentially American-made, and the company that markets it is American-based. It also plans to add an American launch site at Wallops Island. This is a tough call, but I have decided to change Rocket Lab back in my listings as an American launch company. This means China now leads the U.S. 31 to 28.

Share

Jupiter’s upper clouds

Jupiter's upper clouds

Cool image time! The photograph on the right, reduced to post here, was created by citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran from the raw images taken by Juno during the spacecraft’s 16th close fly-by of Jupiter on October 29, 2018. If you click on it you can see the full resolution image.

At the time, Juno was about 4,400 miles (7,000 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops, at a latitude of approximately 40 degrees north.

What attracts me to this image is its dimensionality. First, it looks at Jupiter from an oblique angle. Second, the shadows of the upper clouds can clearly be seen being cast on the lower clouds. Third, if you look at the full resolution image you can even see this effect in the middle of the big white storm in the image’s top left.

What frustrates me about this image is that Juno is not in an orbit around Jupiter allowing it to make extended movies of the evolution of these cloud features. Gaining even a limited understanding the meteorology of this gas giant will simply not be possible until we can do this, and that will require many satellites orbiting the planet.

Share

Watch Rocket Lab launch tonight

You can watch Rocket Lab’s launch of its smallsat Electron rocket tonight at 10 pm (Eastern) at Space.com, or at the company’s own website.

A lot hinges on the success of this launch. The company is gearing up to move to monthly and eventually weekly launches, but to do so it must still demonstrate it can launch successfully and with some regularity. If they succeed tonight, they plan to follow with another launch in a month.

Share

Europe picks landing site for its ExoMars 2020 rover

The European Space Agency (ESA) has chosen the landing site for its ExoMars 2020 rover, a generally flat area with scattered craters dubbed Oxia Palum.

After over 4 years of careful study of HiRISE and more recently CaSSIS images Oxia Planum was chosen because scientists were convinced that its fine grained sediments, deposited during the ancient Noachian epoch were ideally suited for the Exobiology rover. With an enormous catchment area the sediments will have captured organics from a wide variety of environments over a long period of time, including areas where life may have existed. The fine sediments should also be ideal for the ExoMars drill – it aims to get to 2 metres depth.

Remote identification with the Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Infrared spectrometers shows the presence of clays and other minerals giving clues to its aqueous history. A large group of scientists have been working on proposing, characterising and down selecting the sites, all of which had fascinating aspects, but Oxia Planum is the clear winner on both science and engineering constraints.

Based on my analysis of the last two candidate sites, I would guess that they also picked Oxia Planum because it is less spectacular, flatter, and thus poses less risk. It also means the images from there will be a bit more boring for the ordinary person.

Share
1 2 3 635